Monday, July 2, 2007

The Most Ghetto Comic Shop

Back to out regularly scheduled update. I have been debating the merits of writing this story of the worlds most ghetto comics shop for a while. I don’t like to think of myself as a mean person and I don’t know if this qualifies as mean (it probably does). Ultimately I decided that if Rob was up for it, we would go ahead and go John Stossel on the store in question. Rob is my older stepson.

Two great things about Rob are 1) he is really good company, especially if you are a geek like I am and 2) He is usually up for anything that sounds fun. So before we attacked the main subject of this article, we did a dry run at our actual local comic shop. Heroes Comics in Fresno.

Unfortunately, Dave, the personable owner operator was not in that day so I didn’t get a chance to take his picture. Rob wanted to try taking some “stealth” pictures in Heroes before trying to snap the awesome eyesoredness that is the worlds most ghetto comic shop. Well the stealth part of the operation did not go so well in Heroes as Rob forgot to silence his camera phone. When he took a picture, everyone in the place heard this loud “cu-lick”. So we had bugs to work out before the next phase.

Heroes is a real class act. It is not the kind of comic shop that scares off the non-comic geek. It is clean and has no gaming tables (which I think are always a scary element to non-geeks). The staff is not socially awkward and the shop has a lot of cool stuff for sale besides comics.

Check out life sized Thor!

Lately I have been visiting this section a lot. Look for a discussion of the anooying brilliance of Cerebus in the near future.

Then there's this:

Is there really such a thing as ESSENTIAL Ghost Rider?

If you are living in a major city, Heroes is probably pretty not as comprehensive compared to what you have but for the central valley, there’s not too much to compare it to. So Rob and I snapped our pics and made some purchases (I got Volume 5 of Cerebus, Rob got some Horror Clix) It was back to our house and then onto the legendary Wonderland Comics.

I live in a part of Fresno known as the Tower District. It is named such due to the proximity of the Tower Theater, with its distinctive neon Tower.

This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Fresno (our house was built in 1928) and is known as the hippie/artsy part of town. It is also known as the “Gay” part of town. We like it here because the crime is not so bad and the houses have charm. Plus the neighbors are nice.

Deep in the heart of the Tower District, nestled between Chase Flower shop (run by our friend Michael who actually officiated our wedding) and Repeat Performance, the Towers coolest thrift store, sits the legendary Wonderland Comics. Rockin sign!

Wonderland comics has a lot of things going for it.

1) It has a HUGE selection of bronze and steel age back issues. I mean seriously. Rows and rows.

While I was in the shop, I IM’ed my buddy Randal and asked him to name a comic, any comic, and I would see if I could find it. He selected the Wonder Man series from the late 80’s. As soon as he said it, I turned to the 50 cent box I was in front of and…

2) They have incredibly obscure merchandise. I picked up a Will Eisner book for my friend Gabe and Rob found a KULT Role playing game book that he has seen on EBay for over 40 bux.

3) They are laid back. No hard sell here.

But along with these pluses, are some serious drawbacks. First of all the place is a dump. Books litter the floors and most of the short boxes are out of order. It used to smell bad but they seem to have fixed that problem. Be warned that when you leaf through the comics, a dark and sticky film will slowly coat your hands and arms.

Another problem is the prices. When you select something to purchase, you have to take it to the counter where the guy behind the stack will look up the price in the OPG. He will then give you a quote. Near as I can tell, he takes the NM price and knocks little off of it, regardless of condition. For example, Wonderland had a fire a few years back and some of the back issues have smoke and water damage. Doesn’t matter. Prices still stand. I remember bringing him a burnt and wrinkly copy of an Aquaman issue of Adventure Comics from the seventies. He quoted me 6 bucks! I bought it anyway. Hey! Don’t Judge! It’s Aquaman dammit!

Lastly the staff is just plain creepy. I decided it would be crossing a journalistic line to show actual photos of the people who work there but let me describe. First up is the very friendly guy who is in charge of the action figures (they have an amazing assortment there). He is very nice but he comes on with a real hard sell. When Rob and I were there he tried too push some Star Trek TNG dolls on us. The prices were not that bad but Rob and I are not figure guys. Next up is the shops younger employee. Again he is real friendly, but he is real chatty and geeky, and well, I’ll just show you.

Yes he sleeps in a little bed in the back of the store. Not in a store room. This is in the back of the store, right behind the long boxes and in front of the role playing games.

Not sure why he needs this handy but…

The coupe-de-gras is the man behind the actual checkout counter. It’s more of a stack of crap with the owner behind it. Now the owner, I am not going to cap on the poor guy too much but he is a big guy who has a lot of years behind him. He does not have the best hygiene in the world which is kind of standard for a lot of geek shops (you should see the guys and Rob’s favorite air-soft shop), but this is just nasty:

Kind of the wall of Turin formed from the guys head leaning against the wall.

So yeah, because of the messiness of the place and the outrageous prices, I don’t make it a policy to shop there. In fact it had been over a year since Rob or I had gone even though the shop is literally a block away from the house. But on this trip, we found out that they had started the 50 cent boxes. Ugh! We actually left, went to the ATM (because of course all they take is cash) and ended up returning to purchase stacks of comics. How sad! Oh well. I got a gift for my buddy Jon and loads of classic books to make snarky remarks about in future blog entries. Thanks Wonderland!


gperez said...

Wow, I kind of want to go see this place to see it in person, but at the same time i don't want to go, cause it will scare me.

adam said...

HAHA! I grew up on this place! Yes its all true! I lived in fresno in the late 80's early 90's and frequented this shop. I am noe 33 and live in the sacramento area...I HAD to get the number and call just to hear his scratchy voice again! "NNNnnGooood afternoon, wonderland comics. how can i help you?" I was actually going to ask about a comic but almost pissed myself when i heard his voice. The memories of digging around in that shit hole with nothing in order, and being there for hours on end and using the restroom (yes it worked...kinda back then) and yes being a little punk who would slip comics under the back door by the bathroom and then leave and go around back and collect the booty. I truely feel bad now about that, but i was a little punk kid. I work in the sign business these days and have considered anonymously sending a bad ass sign with a wizard on it or something to repay for my evil deeds...looks like he needs one. Hes really a nice guy i guess. but the counter littered with food crusted tupperware and his crusty feet still haunt me!

Craig said...

That shop has bee like that since the '70s when I was a kid and first met the owner. An English teacher at the intermediate school I went to had him come in to our school for summer school sessions to talk about comic history. She also bribed us to read books by offering comics for every some many books.

Anyway, yeah, there's really been no change. However, one of my ex's, who was in his Ren Faire guild, once spent months (just after the fire, I think) cleaning the place for him, and trying to organize. Even she knew it wouldn't last for long. :-)

drumminfool said...

I read a review on this place a few weeks ago, and had to see what a disaster it is for myself. It's way worse than I ever expected. I was kind of taken aback, but I had to see what kind of stuff they had. Oh my god, they have a lot of old comics! I just went to check it out, and didn't have any money on me, but I looked around and found some stuff I wanted the prices for. The guy was eating popcorn, and when I asked the price of one (a 10 cent "Alvin"), he grabbed it with buttery popcorn fingers and checked the price. Like you said, it was like he took the NM price and knocked a little off. I have to say I was traumatized by this experience. How can they be so careless with these books? I'll definitely go there again, but partly for the purpose of rescuing any comics I can, and giving them a life in plastic that they deserve.

Great article by the way. Tell it like it is!

Dissident91 said...

I moved to Madera (20 miles north of Fresno) a couple of years ago, being from the Seattle area, can you say CULTURE SHOCK!! But giving the 5th largest city in CA a shot, I went out to look for things I enjoy. Three comic book stores and then this place! Wow! I showered after I left and did not buy anything,out of pure fear of what I was going to bring home! I seriously felt like I was in the den of Jabba. Lots of back stock but didn't seem to care. Really sad as there is probably some gems in there. I will only go back if the shop liquidates all inventory,which is sad to say because there is already so few shops in town!

Fred Miller said...

Wayne is a pretty decent guy. He runs Wonderland Comics because it's his pleasure, not because he needs your business. I've frequented his business for more than thirty years and he has treasures you'll never find at Heroes or any other comic specialty shop this side of LA or the Bay area. I don't think his pricing is particularly high either. At the end of the day it's his merchandise and if you want it, you'll pay his price. If not, there's the door.

Fred Miller said...

Wayne is a pretty decent guy. He runs Wonderland Comics because it's his pleasure, not because he needs your business. I've frequented his business for more than thirty years and he has treasures you'll never find at Heroes or any other comic specialty shop this side of LA or the Bay area. I don't think his pricing is particularly high either. At the end of the day it's his merchandise and if you want it, you'll pay his price. If not, there's the door.

Brian Hubbs said...

I agree. Wayne is nice, if not hygienic, and you forgot to include that he sits on a pile of comics and reads all least, that's how it was the last time I was there in the late 90s. He always charged me whatever he thought the book graded by the guide, not a few dollars off NM. Maybe that was because i was a knowledgeable, serious collector of old stuff. I got my Spiderman 8 from Wayne...VG+ for $60. I also found some golden age goodies over the years.

Brian Hubbs said...

Actually, that would be Amazing Spiderman #8...

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Darkice said...

I love this place, I have bought countless comics from this store, mike is awesome, havent got many words out of the owner, the kid that works their is very nice as well, the store may not be the prettiest, or cleanest store but, unlike hero's if you are looking for something they will find it for you, and save it if they find it after you leave which is awesome! I can not recommend this comic shop high enough.

brandy tarquino said...

I know this is a VERY old article, but Wonderland is under new partnership. I urge you to please come visit the store will not believe the changes